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The Look of Love


The Gospel lectionary reading for today is from Mark 10:17-30. It is one we have covered earlier this year, but I want to point out one sentence that is often overlooked....
As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, 'Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?' Jesus said to him, 'Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: "You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honour your father and mother." ' He said to him, 'Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth.' Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, 'You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.' When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.Then Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, 'How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!' And the disciples were perplexed at these words. But Jesus said to them again, 'Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.' They were greatly astounded and said to one another, 'Then who can be saved?' Jesus looked at them and said, 'For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.'Peter began to say to him, 'Look, we have left everything and followed you.' Jesus said, 'Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields, for my sake and for the sake of the good news, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this age-houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields, with persecutions-and in the age to come eternal life.
In this story of the rich young ruler there is one sentence that I think is often overlooked. In fact, it is only part of a sentence. It is this one: "Jesus, looking at him, loved him..."

That is the only hope for the rich young ruler . . . and for us. Though our attachment may not be to riches, we all get attached to things that cannot satisfy our spiritual hunger, things that keep us from entering the kingdom of God. Furthermore, it is impossible, in our own power, to get unhooked from these things that enslave us. Perhaps that is why the first of the twelve steps is the admission of our powerlessness.

The good news is that what is impossible with mortals is possible with God. God can get us unhooked from our addictions, whatever they may be. Only a power greater than ourselves can restore us to sanity.

The problem is that even after that initial unhooking, even when we begin to walk the right path with God, we still may feel a certain emptiness in life. And we may be tempted to fill that emptiness with our favorite addiction. Perhaps that is why Peter says to Jesus, "Look, we have left everything to follow you." Peter was obviously feeling empty, bereft. He was, in essence, asking Jesus: "What are you going to do to fill our emptiness?"

To Peter and all of us who leave something behind to follow Jesus, the Master promises us a hundredfold in this life, and eternal life to come. However, the hundredfold in this life is never without "persecutions". For some of us, I imagine, that persecution may come in the form of simply, still, feeling empty from time to time. We still have to face, every day, the temptation to satisfy our hunger with that which is not bread. The only way to overcome that temptation and keep moving in the right direction, the only direction of sanity, is to keep our eyes on Jesus who will, one day, satisfy all our longings....

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